The wheel turns full circle

On Friday evening last in front of the Bishops Palace, The Mall, Waterford, a piece of history was written into the social fabric of Waterford.

It concerned the unveiling of a monument to the 11 Waterford volunteers who fought in defence of the Spanish Republic in the XVth International Brigade 1936-’38.

In front of an audience of over 400 spectators the various speakers including three veterans of the Brigade, Mick O’Riordan, Cork; Jack Jones, UK; and Moe Fishman, USA painted the backdrop to the decision by the eleven volunteers who put their lives on the line for a principle, the defence of the democratically elected government of Spain which was overthrown by the fascist Franco.

Indeed, one of them, Mossie Quinlan, South Parade paid the supreme price when he was killed at the Battle of Jarama in February 1937. It was left to his cousin, Liam Cahill, former RTE correspondent, in a powerful address to remind the audience that when they returned home the volunteers were reviled in their own city. They were ostracised and treated as pariahs.

However, he said that the placing of the monument on one of the principal thoroughfares of the city reflected a maturity of attitudes in the city. He pointed out that the best way to secure peace and liberty for the future is to openly acknowledge, respect and honour every aspect of our traditions and history.

He went on to state: “I hope the monument will encourage greater academic and schools study and wider recognition of the honourable part the Left have played in the life of this city over many decades. In that way, we will commemorate these eleven heroes, not just in stone – however beautiful it is – but in our ongoing commitment to peace, justice, equality and tolerance in our daily lives”.

It was indeed also fitting that one of the principal speakers was the Mayor of Waterford, Collr. Seamus Ryan, a grand nephew of Peter O’Connor, Parnell Street, one of the veterans of the XVth International Brigade, who passed away five years ago.

To the City Council who put political differences aside to unanimously donate the site, a heartfelt thanks.